Variety is reporting that Mahershala Ali has signed to star as boxer Jack Johnson in Unruly, a six-part limited series currently in development at HBO that is based on the PBS documentary Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson.
The limited series, according to the report, is being described as an unapologetically Black, no-holds-barred telling of Jack Johnson’s life. The first ever Black heavyweight boxing champion, the series would follow Johnson’s rise to greatness and the costs he paid for his skin colour and defiance.
Mahershala Ali has previously portrayed Jack Johnson before in a stage production of The Great White Hope in 2000 (one of his first acting roles) and has spoke of his desire to play Johnson onscreen.
Dominique Morisseau will be writing and executive producing the series now, with Mahershala Ali also serving as executive producer under his Know Wonder banner. Tom Hanks will also executive produce via Playtone along with Gary Goetzman, Ken Burns of Florentine Films, Mimi Valdés and Amatus Karim Ali of Know Wonder. Beau Willimon will co-executive producer alongside Playtone’s Steven Shareshian.